Heart Attack - Warning Signs & Prevention
Approximately 5.5 million people suffer from heart attack in the World each year, with a third of those resulting in death. About 50% of those deaths will happen within one hour of the onset of symptoms, therefore, it is important that everyone recognizes the signs in order that sufferers can get to a hospital as soon as possible to avoid death and limit damage to the heart.
Normally oxygen will be carried by the blood flowing through the arteries and into the heart to feed the heart muscles. A heart attack can occur if part of the heart muscle dies/is damaged due to not receiving enough oxygen. Most are caused by blockages due to plaque build-up inside the arteries or to hardening of the artery walls.
How do I know if I'm having a heart attack?
The most common symptom of heart attack, which should never be ignored, is a feeling of pressure/heaviness on the chest. If you feel as if someone is sitting on your chest, it lasts for more than a few minutes and does not go away when you sit or lie down, then you need to dial 9-1-1 immediately. Another possible symptom is pain, which spreads across your back, neck, jaw, shoulders and arms. This may be accompanied by feeling dizzy, nauseous and/or short of breath. There could also be a sudden feeling of extreme fatigue. Sometimes you may feel as if you have heartburn - it can be hard to distinguish between a severe case of heartburn and a heart attack.
The symptoms experienced by men and women can be similar; however, women have reported other symptoms in addition to or instead of the more typical symptoms and these include: difficulty breathing and flu-like symptoms (fatigue, sweaty skin and weakness).
What to do?
If you are in any doubt, call 9-1-1 immediately... better to be safe than sorry! Unless you are in a remote location, do not attempt to drive yourself to the emergency room. If you're not allergic to aspirin, then chew one while you wait for the ambulance arriving.
Whether or not someone survives a heart attack and how well they survive it is dependent upon how quickly they get treatment, how much damage there has been and where the damage is.
The most common risk factors for a heart attack are:
- Age - about 85% of people who die of a heart attack are over the age of 65.
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
- Lack of exercise
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- How to avoid having a heart attack?
Discuss your risk factors with your doctor and he/she will be able to advise you on how to reduce the risk of heart attack. This advice will include: eating a healthy diet (which will help lower blood pressure and cholesterol); getting plenty of exercise; if you are overweight, then he/she will advise you on the best ways to lose weight; if you're a smoker - stop; if you have hypertension, then make sure you control your blood pressure; and if you have diabetes, you need to control your blood sugar levels.